aka Chan Marshall, singer-songwriter, folk musician, and remarkably introverted performer.

To this point Cat Power has released five albums of highly emotional, often harrowing, songs recalling the most desolate tendencies of country and folk music, made all the more startling by Chan Marshall's honest lyrical manner and carefully measured tones, which sometimes explode in such a way as to make your heart stop.

The albums released under the Cat Power name are "Dear Sir", "Myra Lee", the majestic and scary "What Would The Community Think" (her Matador debut), the equally harrowing "Moon Pix", recorded on a holiday in Australia, and "The Covers Record".

Any of the last three albums should be considered an essential purchase.

The name has nothing to do with cats. Chan Marshall once had to make up a band name for herself virtually minutes before a concert, and someone in the audience was wearing a hat that said "CAT - Diesel Power".

To call her introvert doesn't really cut it. If you invest money to see her play live, it's more like gambling. There have been concerts where she threw down her guitar after three minutes and stormed off the stage, just because some careless girl in the audience said something she didn't like. She's not really a diva though, just a little.. odd. During interviews, she sometimes likes to keep silent for half an hour, happily driving music journalists mad.

If all this doesn't scare you, and you are as patient as an angel, a Cat Power concert can be very special. Let me relate my experience of a show in Cologne, in the summer of 2003.

Shortly after 11 pm (she was scheduled for 9 pm), Chan Marshall enters the stage. She has obviously spent those two hours drinking most of a bottle of Scotch (the rest of which she shares with the band) and smoking various not-so-legal cigarettes, presumably to get rid of the stage fright.

What follows hardly fits standard rock concert conventions. Chan asks if someone has an eye liner. Leaves the stage (the remaining bass player and drummer are desperately trying to fill the time), only to reappear 10 minutes later in an over-the-top goth look. After that, she regularly leaves to pee, throw up, or get more booze (these are her own words). Three hours later, she has played about two known songs from her albums, one of which has only one chord, talked for half an hour about a cab driver she once met, covered the Stones, Black Sabbath, Moby Grape and Michael Hurley, and smoked at least one pack of cigarettes.

With any other artist, you would have left long ago. But strangely, you will forgive this woman anything, with her achingly beautiful voice and her fragile, minimalistic songs. You look into the eyes of the ten remaining people in the audience, mesmerized around the small stage, and they have this odd expression, like wanting to hug her and shout at her at the same time.

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